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Bad Boys, Bad Boys: They’re Everywhere


Every now and then I watch “Cops” on TV. While watching a recent gripping episode where city police officers had to deal with yet another unruly pair of meth addicts who committed numerous petty thefts and assorted crimes of distasteful vice, I realized that we as a nation spend billions of dollars for police services in order for street cops to deal with (how can I say this politely?) the dregs of society. And yet crime on Wall Street, and within banks and corporations across the land, gets nary any attention. Granted, watching a Wall Street broker illegally churn millions for fees from his unsuspecting clients is not nearly as entertaining as watching Las Vegas police officers wrestle a transvestite prostitute to the ground and place him/her in handcuffs. But it would be more satisfying to watch the police wrestle a Wall Street banker to the ground and zap him with the Taser; think of the TV ratings THAT would generate. And yes I know all Wall Street bankers are not corrupt . . . yet.

Most of us can probably protect ourselves against meth addicts who would commit petty crimes in our neighborhoods. It’s the Wall Street bankers in faraway offices that activate the flight or fight mechanism in the so-called reptilian part of my brain. Sure, I know the FBI and FTC (Federal Trade Commission) are there to protect American consumers, but their budgets pale in comparison to the budgets of city, county, and state police who spend most of their time interacting with the dregs. Maybe our entire criminal justice system needs restructuring so that the lion’s share of our criminal justice resources are shifted away from dealing with meth addicts and the petty crimes they commit and towards Wall Street and the grandiose crimes they commit. When Wall Street is morally compromised, it can threaten the very economic fabric of our entire society. Of course Wall Street and corporate America have lobbyists and spouses in high places in Washington. Meth addicts, not so much.

There comes a point in every nation where God no longer ignores the sins of his people, including their economic sins. The prophet Amos and Micah tried to warn the ancient people of Israel about this truth, but they did not listen. Here is one such warning from God in Micah 6:11:

“Shall I acquit someone with dishonest scales,
with a bag of false weights?”

Israel had experienced the rise of a wealthy upper class (sound familiar?), yet this brought intolerable corruption (yep, very familiar). The people of Israel thought great wealth was a sign of God’s blessing. In reality, God had reached the point of no return for their idolatry, property crimes, failed civil leadership, failed religious leadership, corrupt business practices, violence, and their belief that personal sacrifice satisfies divine justice. What was Israel’s sentence? The nation of Israel was dismantled and the people were scattered around the world. I do not know if America will suffer a similar fate, but we may well face divine judgment because our sins look eerily similar to those of ancient Israel. What that judgment will look like, I don’t know.

What can the average Christian do if God’s judgment comes to America? We can’t do much about corruption in high places, but on a personal level we can pray that we are part of his faithful remnant that endures and that we are found blameless. We would also do well to examine how we conduct ourselves in our spheres of influence within our communities. In other words, are there any unbalanced scales in our dealings with other people? If so, we need to replace our unbalanced scales with righteousness and integrity.

Pope Francis The Red?

Pope Francis / Agencia Brasil

Pope Francis / Agencia Brasil

Pope Francis recently committed a cardinal sin (I crack me up) by criticizing unfettered capitalism and its effects on the poor. This earned him a bit of ire from conservatives across America. Then an Oxfam report came out claiming that 85 of the richest people have as much wealth as half the world. If true, it is an uncomfortable statistic, to say the least.

Conservative and liberal zealots read stories like these and double down on their preferred worldview. Within Christendom, conservative Christians cite Bible verses that promote personal responsibility, hard work, and freedom. Liberal Christians cite verses that have a socialist feel promoting the sharing of wealth for the benefit of all. For a sample of each, read 2 Thessalonians 3:10 and Acts 4:32-35. (Oh which to choose?)

Conservatives blame our economic and social woes on the ruling class within a growing, intrusive government that impedes free markets which could improve the lives of more people if allowed to function with less government meddling. Liberals decry the greed of big business, the wealthy, and systemic flaws that stack the economy against the little guy. My point is that elements of BOTH of these divergent worldviews—capitalism and socialism—are mentioned in the Bible as having value in the correct context. Therefore it is theologically shaky ground for Christians to embrace one worldview and demonize ALL elements of the other. There is an ethos behind each worldview that the Bible conveys to humanity—personal responsibility AND responsibility for our neighbors is not mutually exclusive in the Bible. Granted, there are good arguments regarding whether government is the best middleman for taking care of our neighbors who can’t care of themselves.

Each worldview has weaknesses because it exists in a corrupted world. Sinful people will take advantage in either of these worldviews. These days, leaders in Washington, business, media, and labor game the system for their own personal enrichment while pandering to followers of these worldviews.

Do I favor one of the two primary worldviews over the other? Yes! I favor capitalism. But the real source of our economic and social problems in America has more to do with deteriorating ethics among the general population and at the highest levels of our formerly venerable institutions. Some forms of unethical behavior in business and politics have become so pervasive that it is now just considered business as usual. We have become sophisticated in our unethical ways. Even if we adopt more of a socialist approach in America, we will still have big problems because our ethics and tolerance for unethical behavior sucks.

Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife recently pled not guilty to corruption charges. (Google “Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell” for some of the details on the case.) According to news reports, McDonnell has steadfastly insisted that he did nothing “illegal” in his dealings with businessman Jonnie Williams. This statement caused me to reflect on the possibility that many of us rely too much on the “legal” versus “illegal” benchmark when evaluating our actions. When making choices, perhaps considering “right” versus “wrong” is healthier and less problematic than leaning on the strict letter of the law. The law can’t lead us to a good heart, though a good heart can help us obey the law.

Of course, healthy ethics won’t prevail unless the majority of people believe pure ethics originate with God. Why? God doesn’t change and the Bible tells us that he is more concerned with the spiritual health of our heart. Without the higher and flawless authority of God, we adjust our ethics to suit ourselves or the culture around us.

Is Phil Robertson Still Happy, Happy, Happy? PART 2

safe_imagePhil Robertson, from the Duck Dynasty TV show, has a wonderful ability to convey to the masses (via his appearance and antics) that the life of any Christian can be fun, edgy, and meaningful. In other words, all Christians don’t have to aspire to look and act like Billy Graham or Francis Chan (don’t get me wrong, I think Billy and Francis are dashing fellows, even though I’ve never seen them in camo and full beards). But it is encouraging that the Robertson family and Duck Dynasty are extremely popular with such a wide range of people right now. Even so, we ought to remember that America has become a fickle nation of fadaholics. The Roberson’s personify the meme. But how long will it last? I hope it lasts a long time and in a good way. Perhaps there is a third generation of Robertson’s waiting in the wings to take the reins.

No doubt the Robertson’s will have their struggles going forward. The paparazzi are always on the prowl to catch celebrity drama and screw-ups. I hope the Robertson’s financial success remains above board. I hope their marriages survive and thrive and that they don’t suffer a tragic moral fail along the way. I hope their children don’t suffer from the harmful side effects of celebrity. But even if some of the Robertson’s mess up because they are human, perhaps their fans, especially Christians, will be prepared to forgive their shortcomings.

Here’s the part that blows my mind: God may be directly using the Robertson’s to inspire millions of Americans (who might otherwise never give God or Christianity a second thought) to ponder the meaning of commitment to family, redemption, transformation, and choosing to live a life that follows Christ while at the same time enjoying life and being industrious. I find it exhilarating and ironic that God has used the Robertson’s to spread the message of God on such a large scale. American church leaders and congregations may have been waiting for a skilled and charismatic speaker, author, mega-church pastor or evangelist to reintroduce God to the people, but God may have other plans. It fascinates me that God may have raised-up the Robertson’s from the ranks of a congregation rather than relying mostly on the heavy hitters in pulpits around the country. But God is known for doing the unexpected now and then. The Robertson’s demonstrate a powerful reality for each person in the congregation: every believer does not need a doctorate in theology, a job as a pastor, and flawless skills in oration to communicate the faith.

The question remains: is Phil Robertson still happy, happy, happy? Other than Phil, Miss Kay may be the only person who knows for sure. I don’t know Phil but I’ve know men similar to Phil, and not much bothers them. I believe Phil Robertson is most likely still happy, happy, happy, because he’s had a life-changing encounter with God. Prior to God entering his life, Phil had seen first-hand how bad life can get. This brouhaha over Phil’s comments regarding sin probably doesn’t come close to the dark places he’s been in the past.

If nothing else, Uncle Si Robertson’s character proves that God has a tremendous sense of humor.